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Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett's career has enjoyed three distinct phases, each of them very successful. In the early '50s, he scored a series of major hits that made him one of the most popular recording artists of the time. In the early '60s, he mounted a comeback as more of an adult-album seller. And from the mid-'80s on, he achieved renewed popularity with generations of listeners who hadn't been born when he first appeared. This, however, defines Bennett more in terms of marketing than music. He would probably say that he has remained largely constant to his goals of singing the best available songs the best way he knows how in each phase of his career. Popular taste may have caused his level of recognition to increase or decrease, but he continued to sing popular standards in a warm, husky tenor, varying his timing and phrasing with a jazz fan's sense of spontaneity to bring out the melodies and lyrics of the songs effectively. By the start of the 21st century, Bennett seemed like the last of a breed, but he remained as popular as ever.

Bennett grew up in the Astoria section of the borough of Queens in New York City under the name Anthony Dominick Benedetto. His father, a grocer, died when he was about ten after a lingering illness that had forced his mother to become a seamstress to support the family of five. By then, he was already starting to attract notice as a singer, performing beside Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at the opening of the Triborough Bridge in 1936. By his teens, Bennett had set his sights on becoming a professional singer. After briefly attending the High School of Industrial Arts (now known as the High School of Art and Design), where he gained training as a painter, he dropped out of school at 16 to earn money to help support his family, meanwhile also performing at amateur shows. Upon his 18th birthday in 1944, he was drafted into the Army, and he saw combat in Europe during World War II. Mustered out in 1946, he went back to trying to make it in music, and he attended the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill. By the end of the '40s, he had acquired a manager and was working regularly around New York. He got a break when Bob Hope saw him performing with Pearl Bailey in Greenwich Village and put him into his stage show, also suggesting a name change to Tony Bennett. In 1950, Columbia Records A&R director Mitch Miller heard his demonstration recording of "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and signed him to the label.

Bennett's first hit, "Because of You," topped the charts in September 1951, succeeded at number one by his cover of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart." Following another five chart entries over the next two years, he returned to number one in November 1953 with "Rags to Riches." Its follow-up, "Stranger in Paradise" from the Broadway musical Kismet, was another chart-topper, and in 1954 Bennett also reached the Top Ten with Williams' "There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight" and "Cinnamon Sinner." The rise of rock & roll in the mid-'50s made it more difficult for Bennett to score big hits, but he continued to place singles in the charts regularly through 1960, and even returned to the Top Ten with "In the Middle of an Island" in 1957. Meanwhile, he was developing a nightclub act that leaned more heavily on standards and was exploring album projects that allowed him to indulge his interest in jazz -- notably 1957's The Beat of My Heart, on which he was accompanied mainly by jazz percussionists, and 1959's In Person! With Count Basie and His Orchestra. By the early '60s, although he had faded as a singles artist, he had built a successful career making personal appearances and recording albums of well-known songs in the manner of Frank Sinatra.

In 1962, Bennett introduced "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," a ballad written by two unknown songwriters, George Cory and Douglass Cross, who had pitched it to his pianist, Ralph Sharon. Released as a single, the song took time to catch on, and although it peaked only in the Top 20, it remained on one or the other of the national charts for almost nine months. It became Bennett's signature song and pushed his career to a higher level. The I Left My Heart in San Francisco album reached the Top Five and went gold, and the single won Bennett Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Solo Vocal Performance, Male. Bennett's next studio album, 1963's I Wanna Be Around..., also made the Top Five, and its title track was another Top 20 hit, as was his next single, "The Good Life," also featured on the album. For the next three years, his albums consistently placed in the Top 100, along with a series of charting singles that included the Top 40 hits "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" (from the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd) and "If I Ruled the World" (from the Broadway musical Pickwick).

By the late '60s, Bennett's record sales had cooled off as the major record labels turned their attention to the lucrative rock market. Just as Mitch Miller had encouraged Bennett to record novelty songs over his objections in the 1950s, Clive Davis, head of Columbia parent CBS Records, encouraged him to record contemporary pop/rock material. He acquiesced on albums such as Tony Sings the Great Hits of Today!, but his sales did not improve. In 1972, he left Columbia for the Verve division of MGM Records, but by the mid-'70s he was without a label affiliation, and he decided to found his own record company, Improv, to record the way he wanted to. He made several albums for Improv, including one with jazz pianist Bill Evans (following a disc they made for Fantasy Records), but the label eventually foundered. (Concord Records released the box set The Complete Improv Recordings in 2004.)

By the late '70s, however, Bennett did not need hit records to sustain his career, and he worked regularly in concert halls around the world. By the mid-'80s, there was a growing appreciation of traditional pop music, as performers such as Linda Ronstadt recorded albums of standards. In 1986, Bennett re-signed to Columbia and released The Art of Excellence, his first album to reach the pop charts in 14 years. Now managed by his son Danny, Bennett shrewdly found ways to attract the attention of the MTV generation without changing his basic style of singing songs from the Great American Songbook while wearing a tuxedo. By the early '90s, he was as popular as he had ever been. The albums Perfectly Frank (1992, a tribute to Frank Sinatra) and Steppin' Out (1993, a tribute to Fred Astaire) went gold and won Bennett back-to-back Grammys for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance. But his comeback was sealed by 1994's MTV Unplugged, featuring guest stars Elvis Costello and k.d. lang, which went platinum and won the Grammy for Album of the Year as well as another award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.

Bennett became a Grammy perennial, also taking home Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance awards for Here's to the Ladies (1995) and On Holiday: A Tribute to Billie Holiday (1997). Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool (1999) was another Grammy winner in the retitled Best Traditional Pop Album category, as was Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues, an album of duets released in 2001. One year later, Bennett paired off with a single duet partner, recording A Wonderful World with k.d. lang. The Art of Romance followed in 2004. Both albums won the Best Traditional Pop Album Grammy for their respective years. In August 2006, Bennett reached his 80th birthday, and his record label marked the occasion with a series of reissues and compilations. The next month brought Duets: An American Classic, another collection of pairings with other singers on re-recordings of some of Bennett's best-known songs. It reached number three in the Billboard chart, the highest placing for an album in Bennett's career; it also won him another Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Album. A second installment of Duets was released in 2011, and the Latin version (Viva Duets) followed in time for Christmas 2012. That year also saw his fourth book published, Life Is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett, and this coincided with the release of a similarly titled documentary film. In 2014, he returned to the collaborative approach to recording that had proved to be so fruitful for him in the 21st century and released Cheek to Cheek, an album of jazz standards on which he was jointly billed alongside Lady Gaga. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Mom's all time fave!
Classic!!
Great Song!! Tony Bennett He Is Great!!!! I Left My Heart In San Francisco!!! ! ' The BEST City!!!!!
You'll Never know a day that i don't love you
You gave great memories and long hours of enjoying music to my beloved brother who passed with cancer a year ago - Doc Steve was able to see you live many times and we played your music at his funeral - thanks for all the memories from an Italian family that still keeps you dear to our hearts
I love u have me baby's
vicruscip
An artist that has spanned the decades....a rare gift
avancesemana l
letra de las canciones
mafs3030
Mr Bennett, I have enjoyed a life time listening to your artistry. Your musicality has defined stages of my life. A life time of thanks to you and your family. Cheers!
Toney Bennett was kind enough to come to my table at a night club we were at in the 60,s Took a picture with my date (smile )
His duet with vicente fernandez was an outstanding beautiful love song I couldnt beleive it when I heard it
mikedearmas1
Yes it had to be you. You Erica.
Mmmn. . . Mike D
CLASS ACT
mustari
Tony Bennett is top shelf.
Have loved his music for more than 40 years.
Listen to him at some point every single day.
Thanks for being a part if so many people's lives Tony,
Correct Cindy!
I honestly believe old age just makes him even more likeable
What an instrument is his voice! The perfect anniversary gift would be having him come to your party and, with lights dimmed, sing ANY of his songs to your and your sweetheart. I just love the unstrained quality of his efforts. And I love his paintings. His son, Danny, deserves Son of the Century award for rescuing him from bad financial dealings and setting his dad up as an independent artist. I think Tony is the best of all time.
ladeysue
I just melt when I hear his music
Tony the smooth one.
We saw Tony in concert and he sings to you like your the only one in the room.
Michael buble Is just like all of them great.
sungarden
Wow....what a classic.
Taking a chance on love awesome , tony Bennett is full of energy
kathi259
Wonderful singer- don't make him like this anymore...
cpirchio
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of you life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works
Real class
Without any doubt, a Master of his craft.....Ju s t beautiful.
Thank you for the loveliness you have been in my life Tony. DBH
curvfit
This man is and always will be a class act!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! !
I was attending the School pf Industrial Art and first met Tony in Gym class at the Annex on 51st street. I had a a crush on a girl who was tn love with Tony. She told me that she had him sing at her parties. Tony never sang at school Assembly. Once I heard sing out side with a few other guys. The next time I heard him, he was singing by himself in the same locker room at Orchid Beach. I never thought I there would ever be as great a ballad singer as Sinatra. Now at 85 I love hearing him


This is my parents' era! I grew up listening to sounds from the 30's, 40's, and 50's. And, WGBH in Boston had a program narrated(?) by Ron DellaChiasa called The Great American Songbook which aired weekly from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. I did all my homework (I was in high school) listening to this awesome music as well as interviews with (then living) musicians (and yes, I got good grades)! Tony Bennett is a personal fave, but I was introduced (by Mr. DellaChiasa) to all this fabulous music. Thank yo
I remember listening to Tony, Dean, Bing, Frank, Bobby and a host of others growing up in the 70s. I used to think their music was ok...my head was stuck in classic rock and country.

OMGosh...the r e ' s nothing like growing up to bring one around to reality. Tony Bennett may the best we've ever had.

He's classic, the real deal. Wish I could see him in concert someday.

Now, when I get home from work...Tony Bennett station on Pandora, wine and cooking with my honey. Just perfect.
I love Tony Bennett no matter what he sings. I also like the songs he has sung as duets with others. Could listen to him sing for hours.
Pandora -- How about English lyrics for a song sung in English? What's up with the Latin lyrics?
CAN LISTEN ALL DAY
love his music!!
bobjacobs90
You make me feel young again---Than k you
I haven't heard Once Upon a Time and would like to have it as a favorite
I love this duet... to my family who love beautiful music
I was just in Manhattan and kept looking for you walking the dog in Central Park....but live daily on I Left My Heart.... as that is where I live and enjoy listening to you so much. Just keep it up...you are an inspiration.
just love tony benedetto, he has my last name Vito Benedetto
gs_esfeller5 9
love tony!!!!
wilpadilla
I Love Tony Bennett's voice!!!! When ever I listen to him it puts me in a good mood!!! :) <3
Tony, I hope you're singing at 100! We're lucky to have you!!!!!
peter.storer
My parents saw Tony many, many times in SF when they were dating. Now I'm in my 50s, and I'm going to see him - amazing!
agnesnicnaff
wonderful,wo n d e r f u l music. I love it.
alexander183
Tony bennett is wonderful .....wish festa italiana in milwaukee wi could afford him but I got to see frank Stallone.... I ' d rather it be tony but u can't get everything u want, to bad
gbonnin5
Frank Sinatra called Tony the best singer in the business. Coming from Frank, that means a great deal.Pandora , if you are going to play Tony, then, play Tony...not Tony and whomever. I love k.d. lang...but let's keep things separate.
joe_brown_42 6 3
What a Wonderful World duet with K.D Lang awsome.
bob.1.smith
saw u @ the copa 1959 on honymoon,we still love u.
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